The Heck with Spec

If I had to guess, spec work gained momentum during advertising’s heyday (the 80s). Back then, account budgets were obscene and unguarded and advertising agencies went the extra mile to support their clients by spending every penny of those budgets. Profit was embarrassing and cash flow was overflowing. So, doing free work was doable, not because anyone necessarily felt that it was fair, but because it wasn’t truly free. The creative time put into spec work was supplemented by existing clients who were over-billed through oversized production markups and padded time sheets. Everyone was happy and everything was awesome *insert favorite 80s song now*. It was the 80s baby! The 90s weren’t too shabby either.

Today is another story.

For the most part, marketing budgets have tightened and are more consistently being monitored and measured for results. It’s almost like the advertising industry had a big party in the 80s and 90s, but its parents came home in the 2000s and demanded for the mess to be cleaned up. Now, we’re asked to be more responsible with our clients’ smaller budgets. It’s a change that simply means marketers must work hard in order to actually earn money. And that’s how it should be. Dangit, parents are always right.

Although our industry has changed for the better over the past three decades, the industry practice of offering free work to win a client’s business is still active. First of all, where’s the love of your product? Giving it away for free greatly devalues that work. The product that marketing firms create is made from each team’s unique expertise and talent. That value is significant. As long as we continue to accept free work requests or agree to completing a 50-page RFP to get a shot at pitching in person, clients will continue to ask for us to do it. It’s 2017. We’ve paid our dues for our actions in the 80s and 90s. We can’t afford to give our time away for free, and we shouldn’t ever think that action is reasonable. 

Today, our team at EXIT declares that we will no longer do spec work. If you want to do business with us, let’s meet in person and discuss your company’s marketing needs and how we can help meet them. That’s time efficiently and effectively spent for both client and agency. And then, if you decide to partner with us, we promise to produce the level of work and results that are worth paying for. 

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